West Virginia man convicted of fatal infant sex assault

Emmaleigh Barringer in the weeks before her murder in October 2016
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RIPLEY, W.Va. (WSAZ) — UPDATE (March 19):

On Tuesday afternoon, a West Virginia jury found Benjamin Taylor guilty of the murder and rape of a 10-month-old girl.

After only about two hours of deliberations, jurors found Taylor guilty of first-degree murder, guilty of death by child abuse, and guilty of sexual abuse by a guardian. In total, he faced five charges, but two were superseded by the others, so he was essentially found guilty on all charges.

The seven-woman, nine-man jury recommended no mercy. Taylor rocked back and forth with his hand over one side of his face during the verdict. Some family members sobbed softly after that verdict.

He has been on trial since last week for killing 10-month-old Emmaleigh Barringer, as well as sexually assaulting her.

On Monday, Taylor took the stand in his own defense. He said he blacked out the night of the alleged crime, so he could not say for certain whether he raped and murdered Emmaleigh.

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UPDATE (March 18):

A West Virginia man accused of sexually assaulting and killing his girlfriend's 10-month-old baby says he consumed several beers and could not recall what happened to the girl the night of her death.

Benjamin Taylor testified Monday in his ongoing trial in Jackson County Circuit Court.

Asked by a prosecutor whether he denied committing the crimes, Taylor said, "I don't know how I could deny it if I don't remember. I wouldn't feel comfortable denying it."

Taylor says he recalled doing laundry and listening to music.

A sheriff's deputy testified last week Taylor had blood on his torso and a wet spot on his pants when officers went to the home in Fairplain in October 2016.

The infant, 10-month-old Emmaleigh Barringer, was found unresponsive in a pile of blankets nearby, covered in blood.

The defense rested after Taylor's testimony and the trial is scheduled to resume Tuesday.

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UPDATE (March 15):

The third day of Benjamin Taylor's murder trial is set to begin.

He is charged with murder, sexual assault, and child abuse in the death of 10-month-old Emmaleigh Barringer.

In October 2016, investigators say Emmaleigh Barringer's mom found her unresponsive and covered in blood when she was in Benjamin Taylor's care.

Emmaleigh died a few days later. Taylor was dating the mother, Amanda Adkins, at the time.

In court Thursday, the second day of testimony, was more about the investigation.

Day one of the trial, on Wednesday, consisted of narrowing in on members of the jury, opening statements, and a very emotional testimony from the victim's mother.

Several officers from different law enforcement agencies took the witness stand to testify. A lot of the questions that were asked were technical: who got to the scene at what time, what they saw, etc.

Most of the officers had consistent memories of that day and the crime scene. They mentioned how hysterical Adkins was on scene, and how Taylor kept lifting up his shirt to show the officers he had dried blood on his chest and torso, but didn't know where it came from.

Body camera footage and audio recordings of Taylor were shown as evidence in court Thursday. Pictures of the crime scene were also displayed, and a member of the Kanawha County Sheriff's Office, who evaluated the crime scene, testified. He said processing the scene took several hours.

The defense attorney for Taylor, Tim Rosinsky, has been consistent in saying his client has been falsely accused. He said the investigation should not have just been focused on Taylor, saying investigators should have interviewed neighbors.

Chief Deputy Ross Mellinger with the Jackson County Sheriff's Office responded, "This particular crime scene didn't involve what you called the neighborhood. Matter of fact, it is was even more restrictive than the residence itself. It was more restricted than just one level of the residence; it was restricted to one room and particularly one area of that room."

The pictures of the crime scene in court showed the blood and other evidence was just in one corner of the basement.

Mellinger was also called to come to the scene around 5 a.m.the day of the crime. On the stand, he recalled what that moment was like.

"He says, 'sorry to wake you, but I think I have a dead baby.' And you know how things are when you wake up in the middle of the night, you kind of rub your eyes. I asked him to repeat what he just said. He said, 'I think I have a dead baby, I need you to come out.' He said he was on scene here and there was an infant child and he believed it had been sexually assaulted. I just kind of sat there for a second trying to process what he was telling me."

Mellinger said still to come is DNA evidence and jail phone call records from Taylor.

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UPDATE (12:04 a.m. March 14, 2019):

Emotional, gut-wrenching and extremely disturbing testimony that was tough for anyone to hear began Wednesday in the rape and murder case of 10-month-old Emmaleigh Barringer.

"She was a ten-month-old child who loved and trusted in the way that only babies can. She didn't deserve to be sexually assaulted, she didn't deserve to be murdered. She was innocent,” said Jackson County Prosecutor Katie Franklin.

The defendant, Benjamin Taylor, was the boyfriend of Emmaleigh's mother at the time and is accused of raping and killing the girl on October 2, 2016.

In opening statements, the Jackson County Prosecutor told the jury they would hear a lot of gruesome details about how the baby died.

"You’re not going to hear a whole lot about the 10 months she was alive,” she said.

Emmaleigh’s mother, Amanda Adkins, woke up that morning and began looking for Taylor. She found him with no shirt on and unbuttoned jeans and Emmaleigh was lying in a pile of blankets on the floor.

"I asked him what he was doing, he said he was drying her off. I asked him why he was drying her off at 5 o'clock in the morning,” Adkins said.

She noticed there was something wrong with the girl's face and asked him what happened and he told her he didn’t know.

Adkins said she hit Taylor in the face and then picked up her child and went upstairs to call 911.

"She could tell Emmaleigh was covered in blood. She was gasping for breath and she was ice cold,” said Franklin.

The defendant’s lawyer agreed that what happened to the baby is horrible, but said that Taylor is innocent.

He was initially charged with first-degree sexual assault before the infant died. He told deputies after his arrest that he took the baby to the basement of an apartment while doing laundry, but "blacked out" and didn't know how the injuries occurred.

"It's also tough to think that you're being accused of it when you didn't do it,” Taylor's lawyer said.

During her testimony, the girl's mother reflected on her daughter's strength in her short life.

"She was born 8 weeks early, but she was a fighter,” Adkins said.

During the course of this trial, the West Virginia Senate passed a bill known as "Emmaleigh's law" to increase the sentence for those convicted of child abuse cases causing death from a current sentence of 10-40 years in jail to a sentence of 15 years to life.

In the immediate aftermath of Emmaleigh's death, a petition to Congress was created online to call for the public hanging of Taylor. It was online for a few weeks, before the White House acted to remove the petition due to the action being called for being inherently illegal in the U.S. judicial system.

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UPDATE (March 13, 2019):

The trial of a man from Jackson County, West Virginia, accused of sexually assaulting and murdering a 10-month-old baby girl is underway.

Back in October 2016, investigators say Emmaleigh Barringer's mom found her unresponsive and covered in blood when she was in Benjamin Taylor's care. Emmaleigh died a few days later.

The jury consists of seven women and nine men.

During opening statements Wednesday, the prosecutor started by telling the jury about the baby. She told the jury they were going to hear a lot about how she died, and not about the life she was supposed to live.

She also told them it's important to remember the baby was a human being.

Then, Taylor's lawyer spoke and kept reiterating to the jury what happened to Emmaleigh is terrible, but Taylor has been falsely accused.

After opening statements, the prosecutor called Emmaleigh's mom, Amanda, as the first witness. She had a hard time speaking about what happened to her daughter that day. The 911 tapes from that day were also played for the jury to hear.

In previous court appearances, there has been heavy security because of the nature of the case. Taylor has worn a bulletproof vest and helmet, in addition to shackles. On Wednesday, Taylor was in dress clothes without any protective gear.

In April 2017, Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill into law that increases the penalty for a person convicted of child abuse causing death. It's called Emmaleigh's Law.

The law increases the penalty for a person convicted for child abuse causing death from 10-40 years in jail to up to 15 years to life.

WHSV's sister station, WSAZ, has a reporter inside the courtroom.

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ORIGINAL STORY (March 2, 2018):

The West Virginia hearing of a man accused of fatally sexually assaulting the 10-month-old daughter of his then-girlfriend in 2016 has been closed to the media and public.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports Jackson Circuit Judge Craig Tatterson approved a joint motion from prosecutors and defense attorneys to close 33-year-old Benjamin Ryan Taylor's hearing Thursday. Taylor is charged with murder, sexual assault and child abuse in the October 2016 death of 10-month-old Emmaleigh Elizabeth Barringer.

County prosecutor Katie Franklin moved to close it, citing a 1980 state Supreme Court case that says a judge must consider if the defendant's right to a fair trial will be damaged if court proceedings remain open. It also says a judge must consider if pre-trial hearing discussions will increase adverse publicity.

During the three-hour hearing, the attorneys argued over evidence of lab results.

Taylor told deputies after his arrest that he took the baby to the basement of an apartment while doing laundry, but "blacked out" and didn't know how the injuries occurred.

Taylor reportedly had a criminal record but nothing of this magnitude, said county Sheriff Tony Boggs, who suggested no explanation for motive.

“I don’t know of any normal human that could fathom what would possess somebody to do that,” Boggs said.

He was initially charged with first-degree sexual assault before the infant died. A criminal complaint shows the baby had extensive bleeding. The complaint says the injuries indicated a violent sexual assault, as well as shaking or striking of the face.

During the course of this trial, the West Virginia Senate passed a bill known as "Emmaleigh's law" to increase the sentence for those convicted of child abuse cases causing death from a current sentence of 10-40 years in jail to a sentence of 15 years to life.

In the immediate aftermath of Emmaleigh's death, a petition to Congress was created online to call for the public hanging of Taylor. It was online for a few weeks, before the White House acted to remove the petition due to the action being called for being inherently illegal in the U.S. judicial system.